6 Weird Fashions From History (With Weirder Explanations)

#3. That Dark Eye Makeup Egyptians Wore


The Egyptians produced so much art in their time that you can almost certainly reproduce your average Egyptian fresco from memory with a pencil and paper -- everyone in profile, standing around and staring out with one giant eyeliner-ringed eyeball.

Get the look: Apply makeup, down 15 shots of gin, call the ex and pass out on face.

There was a practical purpose behind the distinctive Egyptian chic. It turns out that the Egyptians' affinity for eyeliner served the same purpose as the black smears on a modern football player's cheekbones -- it helped to reduce glare from the oppressive desert sunlight.

"Dude, we know you're the sun god, but do you have to carry the damn thing around with you?"

Not only was the Egyptian desert bright enough to begin with, but as we've pointed out before, the pyramids were originally covered in a white limestone coating so that every venture outside your hut was like someone shining a spotlight directly into your eyes for 10 hours. Slapping a thick layer of black gunk around their eyes was a minor but welcome relief from the constant light assault the Egyptians were subjected to.

Presumably why they went around in single file.

Also, see those little cone things on their heads? They really served as the Egyptian method for dealing with the fact that they all reeked like nothing you could imagine. The lifestyle of a desert environment comes prepackaged with the reality that most of your daily activities are going to revolve around contact with somebody else's sweat. The cones were actually composed of animal fat and perfume, which would melt during the day and produce an aroma to offset their intolerable stench.

After the melted deodorant glued their eyes shut, they painted eyes on straight over the eyelids.

#2. Those Terrifying Old-Timey Bird Masks


If you've seen any film or documentary dealing with the Black Death, chances are you saw glimpses of people dressed in weird steampunk crow costumes and carrying orchestra conductors' batons. This wasn't just a 14th-century goth fashion statement.

"Oh, the overwhelming incessancy of my own existence. Poor me, caw caw."

Back in the 1300s, we didn't really know what caused disease, so advice about how to prevent it was about as reliable as advice on how to ward off Bigfoot. This was really inconvenient when the worst pandemic in human history strolled into Europe and said "What up?"


The very least we were able to discern back then was that breathing the same air as a sick person was likely to make you sick as well. Because rotting food, feral animals and other things that made people sick all shared the feature of smelling really bad, the medical consensus was that disease was caused by bad smells. The "miasma theory" of disease was the best theory about why people were dying by the tens of millions in medieval Europe -- they stank like shit.

That's the only reason they buried corpses; otherwise, they'd just prop them up for decoration.

The people dressed in bird masks were freelance doctors hired by villages that were hit hard by the plague. What look like beaks were actually cavities stuffed with spices, rose petals and other sweet-smelling stuff that they hoped would offset the odors they figured were the source of the outbreak -- in short, a kind of medieval gas mask. They carried batons to lift up clothes and blankets so they could make their diagnosis without touching anything.

Sadly, they couldn't raise an eyebrow and rub their chin in thought.

Since a competing theory about disease was that it was caused by evil spirits or something, as an added precaution the costumes were designed to be really freaking scary in the hope that they would just scare the ghosts right out of you. And they made them look like giant crows because they presumably confused ghosts with worms.

#1. Pale and Chubby Renaissance Women


Given today's culture of enforcing tanned, size-zero models as the standard of female beauty, it's kind of confusing that all the women in those famous paintings from the Renaissance are lovingly portrayed as plump, pale and happy. How did the cultural ideal of female beauty change so radically in only a few hundred years? After all, men think with their dicks, right? Isn't what we find attractive just animal instinct?

Is she comfortable in her own skin? Disgusting.

The chubby, white women you see in these paintings kind of prove otherwise. What society finds attractive about women is tied to how well-off they are, socially and economically. And it was the Industrial Revolution that changed everything.

So nowadays, pale skin tends to signify someone who spends too much time indoors playing World of Warcraft. But in earlier times, it was fashionable for women to pile on makeup in order to make themselves as white as humanly possible. Back then, having a tan was a giant fashion faux pas, a sign that you were destitute enough to have to go out and till your own fields. The paler you were, the surer it was that you had enough slaves to do all that for you.

We're sure we've seen these women in The Matrix.

The pale-skin trend didn't really let up until influential women like Coco Chanel started taking extravagant vacations, reinventing bronze skin as a sign of wealth and comfort. A pale complexion became a symptom of spending all your time working indoors.

As for the love handles those girls were sporting, before the Industrial Revolution and the era of easily accessible fatty foods, people who carried a few surplus pounds were those who simply had enough money to afford the extra food. Back then, the women who today adorn the front pages of fashion magazines would have been seen as poverty-stricken charity cases, much more objects of pity than desire.


Now, the dynamic is completely reversed -- being thin requires more wealth and spare time, since an organic vegan diet and a personal trainer are more expensive than a daily diet of fried meat.

So while guys can claim that status doesn't matter when it comes to women, it really does -- just on a subconscious level. And of course, the one thing to take home from all of these fashion trends is that we've always been shallow and superficial. Just for different reasons.

Read more of Yosomono at his headquarters at the GaijinAss Web page or follow him on Twitter @GaijinAss.

For more on fashion, check out 6 Popular Fashion Trends (That Killed People). Or learn about why senors act the way they do in 6 Obnoxious Old People Habits (Explained by Science).

And stop by LinkSTORM to see Jack O'Brien wearing a silly hat.

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